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March 27, 2006

C-Sections, Forced, Coerced, or On Demand?

The World Health Organization considers acceptable levels for cesarean rates as not less than 5% and not more than 15% of all deliveries. Yet approximately 28% of all US births are by cesarean delivery, accounting for approximately one million cesareans a year. Given these facts, it should not come as a surprise that organizations concerned about unnecessary and potentially risky c-sections, including NAPW, will be closely watching this week when the National Institutes of Health state-of-the-science holds its conference on ‘cesarean delivery by maternal request.’

The American College of Nurse Midwives. Childbirth Connection, the American Association of Birth Centers, Citizens for Midwifery, the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services, the International Cesarean Awareness Network, and Lamaze International are among the organizations watching closely. These groups support the “REDUCE” campaign . . .

a new public outreach effort “to call attention to the rising Cesarean section rate in this country and the fact that the increased number of Cesarean sections, especially those done electively, is not supported by medical evidence.”

NAPW and its staff have been involved in a number of cases where anti-abortion arguments have been used to justify c-sections that were forced upon pregnant women. One NAPW web-site reader wrote this angry e-mail in response to some of our commentary on this subject.

“I am writing in response to one of your leaders who stated that the situation concerning a 28-year-old mother who was forced to have a c-section was the “obvious and predictable outcome of attempts to personify the fetus in the law through the Unborn Victims of Violence Act and similar legislation.” I can not even fathom this disregard for human life. I am the mother of girl-boy twins. My daughter was born naturally with no complications. My son was delivered almost 2 hours later via c-section. When the doctor told me that my son had to be delivered c-section, there wasn’t even the slightest hesitation on my part to do what was right and loving for my child. The indifference this leader of yours showed by towards the baby, because that is what he is, a baby…by writing that article is unbelievable to me. I can’t even believe that people really do speak and believe like that! My child was born alive and breathing and able to feel pain…HE WAS NO FETUS but a sweet, innocent, helpless CHILD. When is a person a person?! It is our responsibility to see that ‘nutcases’ like that lady are punished to the full extent of the law. Everyone has a right to life. Maybe your leader should go into a delivery room sometime!. . . Signed L.L.”

As that leader, one who, by the way, has been in a delivery room, here is part of my response:

Dear Ms. L:

I too am the mother of boy, girl twins --and both were delivered by c-section. C-sections can be a life saving gift when they are needed. I am so glad that this procedure was available to you and your son when you needed it. I am sad, however that this procedure is forced on some women creating unnecessary risks and expenses for both the pregnant woman and her family. A c-section was forced on Angela Carder, resulting in her death and the death of her baby. John and Amber Marlowe were almost forced to have an unnecessary c-section. A court, accepting anti-abortion fetal rights arguments, gave the hospital custody of the fetus before, during and after delivery and the right to cut Ms. Marlowe open against her will. To protect herself and her child from unnecessary surgery, Amber Marlowe and her husband fled the hospital and found one that respected patient rights. There she delivered, vaginally, a perfectly healthy baby.

What is “right and loving” in one case may be wrong and dangerous in another. NAPW works to ensure that women and families can make informed decisions based on medical evidence, not politics or professional convenience.

My best wishes to you and your family.

Lynn M. Paltrow

March 21, 2006

Welcome to NAPW's new web site and blog!

Although it is still a work in progress, we are proud to launch a new more beautiful and user-friendly NAPW site. Thanks to John Emerson, Wen-Hua Yang, Wyndi Anderson, and Deb Harper for all of their help.

While we celebrate our new site, we also launch our blog with this question: Have Alaska legislators lost their minds?

Last night, NAPW staff received a call from Alaska activists challenging a bill called “an Act relating to offenses against unborn children.” (SB No. 20(JUD)) The bill redefines the state's murder, and assault laws to include the “unborn” defined as a “member of the species Homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.” Individuals who cause the death of or physical injury to the unborn can be punished for a range of serious crimes. While the statute exempts doctors who perform legal abortions on pregnant women who consent, it does not generally exempt pregnant women in relationship to their own bodies. In other words a pregnant woman who “allows” herself to be battered, who suffers from untreated diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure or addiction, or one who works or lives where there are environmental hazards, could be charged with murder or assault if she is unable to guarantee a healthy birth. In fact the bill specifically states that “a child [born] before 37 weeks gestation with weight at birth of 2,500 grams or less is prima facie evidence of serious physical injury.”

What that means is, if you give birth early to a low birth weight baby, be prepared for the first person you see to be an interrogating police officer not a neonatologist. Perhaps the legislators who wrote and are supporting this bill assume that somehow it won't be enforced against new mothers grieving miscarriages and stillbirths or worrying about whether or not their premie will make it. But, NAPW knows that this is exactly how police and prosecutors across the country have applied similar laws -even ones that do bother to make clear that they don't apply to pregnant women themselves. So the question is do Alaska legislators really want to send the following message to pregnant women in their state?

If you are at risk for a premature birth, a miscarriage or stillbirth, or if you have any doubt about your ability to produce a perfectly healthy baby - abort now -- or anything you say, do, or give birth to may be used against you in a court of law!

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